Members of United Auto Workers 2865 and Student Researchers United voted to ratify new multiyear contracts for academic student employees and graduate student researchers, putting an end to the largest higher education strike in U.S. history.
The “yes” vote on both contracts follows over five weeks of 48,000 employees striking against the UC, withholding their labor to seek concessions from the UC Office of the President in response to a slew of alleged unfair labor practices the UC committed.
Members of United Auto Workers (UAW) 5810 — another of the three UC UAW unions — ratified new contracts and ceased striking on Dec. 12.
The new contracts for the remaining union groups — ratified after five days of voting — dismiss all charges of unfair labor practices and put an end to the nearly six week-long strike. The agreements, however, are a source of contention among some union members who believe their demands were not fully addressed by the negotiated contract changes.
Academic student employees voted 11,386-to-7,097 to ratify the new contract and student researchers 10,057-to-4,640, per an email statement from UAW announcing the contract approvals.
“The dramatic improvements to our salaries and working conditions are the result of tens of thousands of workers striking together in unity,” President of UAW 2865 Rafael Jaime said in a statement.
The new contracts will offer academic student employees a minimum salary of $29,998 by October 2023 and $36,071 by October. 2024; graduate student researchers will receive a minimum salary of $35,013.00 by October 2023 and $40,129.83 by October 2024. This is a salary increase of 55-80% and 25-80% respectively, based on individual campuses.
The new contracts allow greater paid maternal and paternal leave, increase for childcare subsidies, legal protection from abuse and bullying, and dependent healthcare in some cases.
“This week’s successful vote creates the opportunity for unprecedented partnership between the University and its graduate student workers,” Steinberg said in the union’s statement.
UAW bargaining team members who voted against the tentative agreement said in a statement that “the UC’s mediated proposals fail to deliver on the major demands of the strike,” and that they believed union members could have garnered further concessions.
“I maintain that this is a bad contract,” UAW 2865’s recording secretary Janna Haider said. “The nearest wage increase does not come until April 1 at the earliest, and it will only be an additional $200 a month which is not enough to lift anybody out of rent burden.”
The majority of UAW 2865 union members from UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz voted against the contract. Some members of the UAW 2865 bargaining team will file an appeal, challenging the results with the UAW International Executive Board, according to Haider.
“We have a lot of concerns about the validity of the vote count for the 2865 units,” Haider said. “We haven’t seen any of the backend data of the ballots, of course, and also the ballots were not counted and processed, according to UAW 2865 bylaws — they were collected only by the data team, which is entirely paid staffers. None of them are in-unit workers, which violates article 13 of the 2865 bylaws, as we’re alleging,” Haider said.
Haider also alleged that several graduate students who will only ever work in the Student Researchers United unit were encouraged to register and vote with UAW 2865, despite the fact that they will never work under that union’s contract.
Haider said that should the International Executive Board Find that the vote counts for both unions were proper, the objecting group will abide by the results of the ratification vote.
Correction [January 9, 2023 10:10 a.m.]: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the ratified contracts were five-year contracts. Both are 2.5-year contracts.